Andreas Kaldis once read or heard somewhere that the chatter never stopped in Athens. Not even at sunrise, when the earth itself seemed to pause to draw a breath. Like its people, the city always had something to say whether you were in the mood to listen or not. Sun-up simply shifted the style of conversation from high-pitched shouts of an Athens at play to the anonymous din of a city at work.
That's what Andreas was doing now, working. "Turn off the damn siren, no one's listening." He was in a foul mood. "The body's going nowhere. Just like us in this goddamn coming-home-from-partying morning traffic."
Police officer Yianni Kouros said nothing, just did what his boss told him to do. That's why Andreas liked him, he listened.
Andreas stared out the passenger-side window at a hodgepodge of neglected private and graffiti-covered government buildings. This section of Pireos Street, a formerly elegant avenue, began west of the Acropolis, ran northeast through the trendy, late-night bar and club area of Gazi, and ended with a name change amidst the around-the-clock drug and hooker trade by Omonia Square. What remained of its once-treasured three-and four-story buildings were now warrens of ground-level check cashers, bars, small-time retail shops, and cheap, foreign restaurants. It seemed every immigrant group to Greece had set up shop in this part of town. Truth was, they were everywhere, well almost.
"I remember when I was a kid my dad used to bring me down here for sweets on Sundays. Especially this time of year. He loved late spring."
"Bet he wouldn't bring you here today, Chief."
Andreas nodded. "God bless him, he'd sit by the edge of the park at Omonia—" gesturing up ahead with his left hand, "having coffee with friends while I'd play. Everyone liked him. I thought that came with being a cop. I should have known better."
They were locked in traffic packed solid up to an intersection about one hundred yards ahead. The traffic light at the corner was red and, when a gap opened in oncoming traffic all the way back to the light, Kouros pulled the unmarked car into the empty lane and raced toward the intersection.
"Christ, Yianni, at least turn on the lights."
"Never turned them off, only the siren." Another reason Andreas liked Kouros: he listened but was no fool.
Kouros reached the intersection just as the light turned green. He swerved across the front of their lane and shot up the street to the right, narrowly missing the rear wheel of a motorcyclist who'd jumped the light.
Andreas turned his head and stared at Kouros. He knew there must be a grin breaking out somewhere on the other side of that face.
© Jeffrey Siger